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Chapters

The 1916 Easter Rising

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Exhibit Z: Statement submitted by James Connolly in his defence.
I don’t wish to make any defence except against charges of wanton cruelty to prisoners. These trifling allegations that have been made in that direction if they record facts that really happened deal only with the almost inevitable incidents of a hurried uprising and overthrowing of long established authorities, and no where show evidence of a set purpose to wantonly injure unarmed prisoners.

We went out to break the connection between this country and the British Empire and to establish an Irish Republic. We believe that the call we thus issued to the people of Ireland was a holier calling and a holier cause than any call issued to them during this war having any connection with the war. We succeeded in proving that Irishmen are ready to die endeavouring to win for Ireland their national rights which the British Government has been asking then to die to win for Belgium. As long as that remains the case the cause of Irish Freedom is safe. Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland. The presence in any one generation of even a respectable minority of Irishmen ready to die to affirm that truth makes that Government for ever an usurpation, and a crime against human progress. I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irishmen and boys, and hundreds of Irish women & girls, were equally ready to affirm that truth and seal it with their lives if necessary.

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The James Connolly room in Dublin Castle

An Account by Nora Connolly

James Connolly's daughter Nora, has left an account of the last days of her father as he lay wounded in Dublin Castle, uncertain of his fate.

' On Tuesday ( May 9th ) i went with mother. There were soldiers on guard at the top of the stiars and in the small alcove leading to Pap's room. They were fully armed and as they stood guard they had their bayonets fixed. In the room there was an R.A.M.C officer with him all the time. His wounded leg was restingin a cage. He was weak and pale and his voice was very low. Mother asked was he suffering much pain. ' No, but I've been court martialled today. They propped me up in bed. The strain was very great. ' She knew then that if they had court-martialled him while unable to sit up in bed, they would not hesitate to shoot him while he was wounded. Asked how he had got the wound he said ' It was while i had gone out to place some men at a certain point. On my way back i was shot above the ankle by a sniper. Both bones in my leg are shattered. I was too far away for the men i had just placed to see me and was too far from the Post Office to be seen. So i had to crawl till i was seen. The loss of blood was great. They couldn't get it staunched. ' He was very cheerful, talking about plans for te future, giving no sign that sentence had been pronounced an hour before we were admitted. He was very proud of his men. ' It was a good clean fight. The cause cannot die now. The fight will put an end to recruiting. Irishmen will now realise the absurdity of fighting for the freedom of another country while their own is enslaved. ' He praised the women and girls who fought. I told him about Rory ( Connolly's son; the boy had been arrested with other rebels but had given a false name and was released along with the other boys under sixteen ) ' He fought for his country and has been imprisoned for his country and he's not sixteen. He's had a great start in life, hasn't he Nora? Then he turned to mother and said: ' There was a young boy, Lillie, who was carrying the top of my stretcher as we were leaving the burning Post Office. The street

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was being swept continually with bullets from machine guns. That young lad was at the head of the stretcher and if a bullet came near me he would move his body in such a way that he might receive it instead of me. He was so young looking although big, that i asked his age. ' I', just fourteen sir, ' he answered. We can't fail now. '
I saw father next on Thursday, may 11th, at midnight. A motor ambulance came to the door. The officer said father was very weak and wished to see his wife and eldest daughter. Mama believed the story because she had seen him on Wednesday and he was in great pain and very weak, and he couldn't sleep without morphine. Nevertheless she asked the officer if they were going to shoot him. The officer said he could tell her nothing. Through dark, deserted sentry-ridden streets we rode. I was surprised to see about a dozen soldiers encamped outside Papa's door. There was an officer on guard inside the room. Papa turned his head at our coming. ' Well Lillie. i suppose you know what this means? ' ' Oh, James, it's not that - it's not that. ' ' Yes, Lillie, i fell asleep for the first time tonight and they wakened me at eleven and told me that i was to die at dawn. ' Mamma broke down and laid her head on the bed and sobbed heart-breakingly. Father patter her head and said: ' Don't cry, Lillie, you'll unman me. ' ' But your beautiful life James. Your beautiful life! she sobbed. ' Well Lillie, hasn't it been a full life and isn't this a good end? ' I was also crying. ' Don't cry Nora, there's nothing to cry about. ' ' I won't cry Papa ' I said. He patted my hand and said: ' That's my brave girl . .' He tried to cheer Mama by telling her of the man who had come into the Post Office during the Rising to try and buy a penny stamp. ' I don't know what Dublin's coming to when you can't buy a stamp at the Post office . .' The officer said: ' Only five minutes more. ' Mama was nearly overcome - she had to be given water. Para tried to clasp her in his arms but he could only lift his head and shoulders from the bed. The officer said ' Time is up. ' Papa turned and said good-bye to her and she could not see him. I tried to bring Mama away but i could not move her. The nurse came forward and helped her away. I ran back and kissed Papa again. ' Nora, i'm proud of you. ' Then the door was shut and i saw him no more. . .

On the 12th May 1916 James Connolly was transported by military ambulance to Kilmainham Gaol, carried to a prison courtyard on a stretcher, tied to a chair and shot. His body (along with those of the other rebels) was put in a mass grave without a coffin.

Nora describes ' Later we saw Father Aloysius who had attended him in Kilmainham. ' How did they shoot him, how could they shoot him? asked mama. ' He couldn't sit up in his bed. ' ' It was a terrible shock to me ' said Father Aloysius. ' I'd been with him that evening and i promised to come to him this afternoon. I felt sure there would be no more executions. Your father was much easier than he had been. I was sure tat he would get his first real night's rest. The ambulance that brought you home came for me. I was astonished. I had felt so sure that i would not be needed that, for the first time since the Rising, i had locked the doors. And some time after two i was knocked up. The ambulance brought me to your father. I'll always thank God as long as i live that he permitted me to be with your father until he was dead. Such a wonderful man - such a concentration of mind. They carried him from his bed in an ambulance stretcher down to a waiting ambulance and drove him to Kilmainham Jail. They carried him from the ambulance to the jail yard and put him in a chair. He was very brave and cool. I said to him ' Will you pray for the men who are about to shoot you? ' and he said ' I will say a prayer for all brave men who di their duty. ' His prayer was ' Forgive them for they know not what they do . .' and then they shot him. '

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The side gate at Kilmainham, through which James Connolly was carried on a stretcher. The simple cross markes where he was tied to a chair and shot.